FAA still silent on relief options for Los Altos airplane noise

Los Altos area residents hoping for relief from airplane noise won’t get it anytime soon. Further, local leaders have no idea when it will happen.

A May 17 update by local members of Congress indicated that the Federal Aviation Administration was still in the early stages of reviewing and responding to a host of recommendations put forth last year by residents and local leaders. Some were hopeful they would see actual implementation after six months.

“I’m troubled (for) the thousands of residents who engaged in the process, whose efforts they thought would be responded to in a timely fashion,” said Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian.

Simitian served as chairman of the 24-member Select Committee on South Bay Arrivals, which worked for months with the FAA to solicit public input and develop noise mitigation proposals.

“To call it disappointing would be to understate the case,” Simitian said.

Simitian’s committee, which included representatives from Los Altos, offered what were deemed feasible solutions to the escalating increase in airplane noise. Suggestions included flying at higher altitudes, flying over less-populated areas and over water, limiting night flying and implementing noise-reducing retrofits on planes. Committee members included Los Altos City Councilman Jean Mordo and Los Altos Hills Mayor Gary Waldeck.

The work capped months of discussion after an avalanche of air noise complaints triggered by the FAA’s 2015 NextGen program. Designed to increase flight-path efficiency, the program all but ignored the impact on the ground from the changes in flight paths.

Awaiting a response

Local U.S. Reps. Anna Eshoo (District 18, which includes Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and Mountain View), Jimmy Panetta (District 20) and Jackie Speier (District 14) released a joint statement May 17 noting that the FAA was responding to the 109 recommendations in the final reports submitted by the Select Committee and a corresponding San Francisco International Airport/Committee Roundtable.

“We have continued to relay the public’s interest in a response to the recommendations as soon as possible,” the congressional representatives said in a statement.

According to their statement, the FAA will send its response to the Department of Transportation (DOT) within a month for final review and authorization.

“It is not known at this time how long the DOT will take to authorize the release of the response,” the representatives said.

Simitian was concerned by the federal departments’ lack of commitment to a timeline for implementation.

“This leaves people understandably irate,” Simitian said. “(The FAA has) had six months to review the recommendations they participated in – it was a process the FAA initiated. … It’s a real lost opportunity.”

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